Kensington: Kensington Blues Documents Hardships Beneath the El
For many, the battered streets beneath the El along Kensington Avenue serve as an eyesore, but for some, it is an outlet of expression.
Photographer Jeffrey Stockbridge, 31, has turned the littered sidewalks of Kensington into a narrative of the neighborhood’s struggle
with drugs and addiction through his blog Kensington Blues. By using photographs, audio recordings and journal entries, Stockbridge utilizes several media platforms to show the lives of those living along Kensington Avenue, better known to them as “the Ave.”
Stockbridge started Kensington Blues in 2008 after spending years photographing the interior of abandoned houses around Philadelphia. Through his work within blighted neighborhoods he became more familiar with those who occupied their streets and narrowed his focus to document their stories.
“It’s an amazing feeling to connect with strangers,” says Stockbridge, “there’s so many interesting characters in this city and I like to have that short term relationship with them.”
Kensington Blues tells the story of the disheveled areas of Kensington through the eyes of those in the thick of its tangles. Sherry Ludlow, an addict represented on the blog through a journal entry in her handwriting refers to the Ave as “the place that life forgot.”
Through an audio recording, Stockbridge shares Sarah’s story, a prostitute who has been on the “Ave” for a year and a half after losing her job, home and control of her life after her husband, mother and father were killed in a car accident two years ago.
“That just describes what it’s like for many of the people out there, they’re just numb to it, yet they fall into this routine that they can’t get out of,” says Stockbridge.
Stockbridge uses Kensington Blues as a way to organize his findings and start a conversation about his work.
“Having the blog is like having a middleman. I can just throw things up on it…share it with people and get some feedback. It has been the most effective way to reach the most people possible.”
After finishing shooting in Kensington this winter, Stockbridge hopes to expand his project into new forms of media. Stockbridge also runs a fine art printing studio at the Vox Populi building on 11 th and
Callowhill streets, which aids in his want to expand Kensington Blues into a tangible entity.
“There are so many different things that photography can do,” states Stockbridge about his future endeavors. “I love photo books. The act of creating a narrative through pictures is really challenging. It’s like writing a poem.”